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Handling Iron Deficiency and Hypothyroidism

Jennifer started experiencing frequent bouts of constipation and sluggishness. This interfered with her ability to focus at college or even participate in sports, which she was so fond of. When her concerned mother took her to the doctor, a blood test revealed that Jennifer was suffering from iron deficiency. On further examination, it was discovered that Jennifer’s prevalent iron deficiency had also led to the development of thyroid problems.

We all know that iron deficiency leads to anaemia. Your body cells require sufficient iron supply to produce a protein molecule called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin helps transport oxygen to your cells and tissues so they function well. A low haemoglobin count leaves you vulnerable to disease. What most people don’t know is that iron deficiency also leads to a thyroid disorder called hypothyroidism. Here are some facts on hypothyroidism and how it is linked with iron deficiencies.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a thyroid disorder that is characterised by a slow function of the thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland secretes a hormone that is needed to control and regulate the function of your major organs, including the brain and heart.

Your thyroid also controls the function of your metabolism. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food you eat to energy. A slow thyroid gland slows down your metabolism. This explains why people with hypothyroidism suffer from constant exhaustion, weight gain, cold feet, muscle weakness and cramps, joint pains, heavy menstruation, depression, and constipation.

What causes hypothyroidism?

The autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes hypothyroidism. This disease is often genetically passed on. However, modern lifestyle and habits including chronic stress, smoking, bad diet, and an irregular sleep cycle can lead to hypothyroidism.

In certain cases, hypothyroidism is also caused by high doses of medication given to reverse the symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is generally more prevalent among women than men.

How does iron deficiency worsen hypothyroidism?

Iron deficiency slows down the production and conversion of your thyroid hormones. Moreover, iron deficiency leads to physical symptoms which mimic those of hypothyroidism, thus making thyroid problems worse. These symptoms include a slow heart rate, constipation, cold hands and feet, severe hair loss, dizziness, and constant fatigue. Additionally, an iron deficiency also lowers the capability of your immune system to fight disease. This leaves you vulnerable to autoimmune conditions that cause thyroid problems.

Diet tips to manage an iron deficiency

  1. Eat iron-rich foods

Eating iron-rich foods is one of the first steps taken by doctors and nutritionists in thyroid treatment.Foods rich in iron include dark green leafy vegetables, raisins, seafood, dark beans like rajma, red meat, liver, and chickpeas. You can also supplement your intake of iron with iron-fortified cereal and bread.

  1. Step up on folic acid

Your body needs iron and folic acid to produce sufficient red blood cells. Fortunately, folic acid is found in most vegetarian food that we consume daily. Include in your diet nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, carrots, corn, beetroot, papaya, and peas to get your daily requirement of folic acid.

  1. Say yes to anti-inflammatory foods

Anti-inflammatory foods protect your body cells from oxidative decay. These foods help strengthen your immune system and protect you from a number of diseases. The best anti-inflammatory foods are virgin olive oil, spinach, kale, ginger, fatty fish, turmeric, nuts, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, beetroot, and carrots.

  1. More of Vitamin C

A little-known fact is that Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better and strengthen your immune system. This vitamin can be your best friend in the fight against thyroid problems.Your Vitamin C food list includes strawberries, oranges, lime, papaya, pineapple, berries, amla, apricots, cherries, and tomatoes.

  1. Kick out iron blockers

An excessive consumption of dairy products is known to interfere with your body’s capacity to absorb iron. Limit your daily intake of dairy to yoghurt, low fat cheese, or butter. Certain research also indicates that an excess of coffee and cocoa is known to interfere with iron absorption in the blood.

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